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General Waste & Recycling FAQs

Where can I turn in bottles and cans? 

Find a SLO County CRV redemption center to turn in bottles and cans.


I received a countertop food scrap pail, how do I use it? 

Click here for more information on your food scrap pail.


Where do I get rid of an old mattress? 

Recycling a mattress is easy and free in SLO County! Read more:


Why can't Styrofoam be recycled? 

What we can and can’t recycle is driven by market demand for recycled materials. Because polystyrene (the generic name for Styrofoam) is so light and delicate, it is not cost-effective for the recycling industry to ship and process.


What about compostable/biodegradable plastics? 

Marketed 'compostable' or 'biodegradable' bio-based plastics are NOT accepted in curbside organic (green, compost) bins in San Luis Obispo County. This includes bioplastic bags, cups, utensils, starch-based packing peanuts, and 'compostable' elastomer products like phone cases. If it looks and feels like plastic, it's not accepted in the green bin.

Most materials in the county get locally processed at our Anerobic Digestion Facility, HZI, which turns our organic waste into useable, organic certified compost within ~2 weeks. Bioplastics can take much longer than natural materials like food scraps take to degrade, and some never do! 

Bioplastics mixed in with our organics clog the machinery, and create residual that ruins the compost processed through HZI. They can damage an entire load, and would remove the compost's organic certification. 

So while bioplastics are often marketed as compostable, please don't throw them in your green bin! If you have the facilities to home-compost these materials, this can be an alternative to landfilling them. And as always, the best solution is to reduce your dependence on single-use materials in the first place. 


What do I do with large appliances and refrigerators? 

Our local Household Hazardous Waste Facilities do not accept large appliances or any appliances, like refridgerators, containing freon. We recommend contacting a local landfill or appliance store (retail or second hand) for disposal. 


What do I do with asbestos? 

For information on asbestos disposal, read more here.


Can you send someone to my house to pick up ____? 

The SLO County IWMA does not offer services to pick up goods for disposal, you will need to contact your solid waste hauler directly. 


What can I recycle? 

Rigid plastics, paper products, aluminum cans, glass bottles, and more! 

If you're ever unsure, use our Recycling Guide to determine the best way to dispose of an item. Still confused? You can always give us a call or use our Contact Us form


Why should I recycle? 

Recycling reduces the amount of valuable materials that end up in our landfills and conserves our limited natural resources. When you recycle, that material has another life, rather than being buried in the landfill. 


Why is recycling different everywhere? 

Under US law, recycling programs have to be run at the state and local level, so there is no national standard. What can and cannot be recycled — and how you recycle — can vary even between adjoining towns and cities. Different recycling facilities might have different equipment and different standards that dictate what they can accept. 


I've heard recycling just gets thrown in the dump, is that true? 

Rest assured that your recycling is headed for the sorting facility, not the dump. It costs money to deliver trash to the dump; conversely, recyclable materials are valuable and can be sold for profit.

That said, some items that are deposited in recycling bins can end up in the trash because they have been deemed not recyclable or have been rejected by sorting machines. Occasionally a load of recyclables is so heavily contaminated with hazardous materials or non-recyclables that it must be thrown in the trash.


What is single stream recycling? 

Single stream recycling is a sorting method that makes recycling easy for residents. All recyclable materials (glass, plastic, paper, etc.) go into a single cart or bin at the curb, rather than getting separated into multiple bins. 


Can I bag my recyclables before placing them in the bin? 

Bags can jam up sensitive equipment at the recycling facility and cannot be recycled. We encourage you to rinse out or clean your kitchen recycling  container regularly - or you can use a liner but dispose of it in the trash after placing recyclables in the recycling bin.


If I'm unsure whether something can be recycled, what should I do? 

If you’re unsure what to do with something, you can always use our Recycling Guide. Putting non-recyclable items in the recycling can be expensive (labor cost of sorting out non-recyclables and/or lowered resale value of contaminated recyclables), and also potentially dangerous (workers having to extract items from machinery). So when in doubt, throw it out. 


Where can I submit complaints of non-compliance to the IWMA? 

Complaints for alleged violations of local, regional, or statewide regulations can be submitted using the IWMA’s Complaint Form.


Where can I find a worm bin? 

You can purchase a ready-made worm bin at a local hardware or outdoor supplier, or make your own! Learn more »


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